After a long night of fasting, your body is begging for nutrition in the morning. Without the proper fuel, you’re left with little energy, an offset mood, wacky cravings and potentially a wider waistline. Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
Some classic morning meals are obvious diet offenders—waffles and pop tarts, you’re not fooling anybody. However, other breakfast staples may not seem so sinful at first glance. Either way, do yourself a favor and skip these seven foods at the breakfast table. Opting for more nutritionally balanced, wholesome alternatives will actually prepare you to take on the day.
1. Sugary Cereal
Leave the Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes where they belong—in your childhood memories. The sugar rush from these cereals will mess with your blood sugar and cause you to reach for more sugary snacks later on in the day.
“Classic breakfast foods can often be high in sugar, lower in nutritional value including vitamins and minerals, healthy fat, fiber and protein that can help to carry us forward into the day feeling satisfied and energized,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition. This remains true for sweet cereals. Also, be aware that healthier looking options like granolas can also contain high amounts of sugar, so be sure to read the nutrition label before buying!
Waffles can be incredibly heavy on the simple carbs (meaning, they digest quickly and won’t keep you full for long), and have the potential to qualify as dessert depending on your toppings of choice. Some toaster varieties, if specified on the package, may offer a decent amount of fiber, but others can be seriously lacking. Whether you make your own batter or pop some in the toaster, waffles don’t exactly provide you with a balanced breakfast.
“When it comes to picking a great breakfast, you always want to combine protein or fat with minimally processed carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, for example, scrambled eggs with fruit or toast,” says Smith.
3. Orange Juice
Nothing quite hits the spot like a glass of OJ in the morning, right? This breakfast mainstay is actually loaded with sugar and relatively low in nutrition (especially highly processed, store bought varieties). “Juice (particularly heat pasteurized fruit juice) in the morning can serve up a high dose of sugar and calories.
Also, given that the fruit juice is processed at a higher temperature some of the nutrient value can be lost, too. Instead, choose a freshly squeezed juice, cold-pressed juice or high-pressure-pasteurized fruit and vegetable juice that contains more nutrients and less sugar,” says Smith. A good rule is to look for a juice that boasts two veggies for every fruit included.
4. Bagel and Cream Cheese
Do your best to resist Einstein Bros. on the corner — there’s nothing smart about this a.m. pick. Bagels are calorie bombs — you might measure them as one serving, but one bagel is equivalent to roughly four slices of bread — and offer very little nutrition. Not to mention, most are considered simple carbohydrates, so unless it’s whole wheat, you’ll miss out on fiber content that would keep you feeling satisfied.
And sorry to slam your beloved schmear, but cream cheese is really only there to satisfy your taste buds, not your nutritional needs — even if it’s the veggie kind. If you really can’t kick your morning bagel, try eating half of a whole-wheat bagel with avocado or nut butter for the spread. This way you’ll cut back on calories and add in some healthy protein, fiber and fat to balance the meal.
5. Pre-Mixed Oatmeal
Oatmeal can be one of the best ways to start your day, but pre-mixed packets offer a little more than you bargained for. “When we choose premixed oatmeal, we typically get less fiber because the grain is generally more processed, and more added sugar,” says Smith. For a healthier bowl, add your own fruit to plain oats. Nut butter, seeds, coconut and cinnamon are all tasty and healthy add-ins, too.
The only thing these pastries are fueling is your nostalgia. Grabbing a Pop-Tart out of the toaster on your way to school as a kid may have been sufficient back then, but your body relies on your morning meal for energy — and this pick will leave you hanging. Any natural energy you do get from the superfluous sugar in these pastries will soon be followed by a crash. Also, the low fiber count doesn’t help balance things out either.